Lily O'Hara's 'Go on Big Yellow' - Front Row Club

Lily O’Hara’s ‘Go on Big Yellow’

My first time playing rugby was in my final year of university. My flat mate who was captain of the rugby team needed players, so she asked me to help out. My first match I was stuck on the wing and I remember seeing a big gap so I just ran straight. I did get the try but I didn’t know you had to put the ball down to score so I remember my team were screaming at me to put the ball down. I still played predominantly Netball even after I graduated and helped out the rugby girls when I could.

After university, I went to Barnes Women RUFC because a few of my friends joined. My first training session we did tackle drill and my coach, who’d been shouting at everyone suddenly went really quiet. I thought I’d done something wrong but I later heard he’d said ‘yeah the girl can tackle’.

It was at Barnes I got my first nickname ‘Big Yellow’

Thankfully he didn’t put me on the wing and I joined the forwards in the back row. He tried to put me in second row but I didn’t like it, just too claustrophobic for me. I enjoyed playing in NC1 League because it didn’t hurt as much when I ran with the ball. It was at Barnes I got my first nickname ‘Big Yellow’ which I acquired from my job, so the girls would often support me by calling out ‘Go on Big Yellow’. It was unfortunate during one match as the referee took offence because he was wearing a big yellow reffing top. Whoops!

“I just wasn’t confident on the pitch especially when the rules often changed”

After a year playing for Barnes, I still wasn’t sure rugby was for me, even though I was getting positive feedback, I just wasn’t confident on the pitch especially when the rules often changed. Randomly, I went to a rugby cross 7s event at Rosslyn Park where a former Quins coach, approached me and invited me to Quins open day. I was a little stunned but I couldn’t go as I was working and ignored my friends advise to call in sick. Quins were good to let me come to one of their training nights instead. And that was that, I joined Quins. It wasn’t much of a conversation really, simply that I stayed at Quins from then on. They have a wide range of support staff — a sports psychologist, strength & Conditioning team offering position specific gym training, nutritionists — so in terms of supporting you as a player it’s all there. I considered myself still new to rugby despite playing one season at Barnes – the coaching staff are really good to spare that time to talk you through things. I was moved to Hooker ahead of my first game for Quins. The coaches felt it was a good opportunity to play me in a new position. My throw-ins needed a bit of work but it was nice to play at that level, offering healthy competition, although the hits were certainly bigger and more painful. 

was delighted to be named part of the Quins 1s 40 players”

Following the disbandment of Premiership development league, I started looking for a new team to join but was delighted to be named part of the Quins 1s 40 players. I’ve also since returned to playing in the back row, even though it’s full of competition from elite players. At training, we are now more integrated being one team, so often find myself up against numerous international players. There’re about 2-4 players competing for each position. We have our stats taken during each game which are fed back to us to help development i.e. tackles made, tackles missed, distance run. During pre-season, one of the girls took one of our warmups which was great as she had us running in circles, touching the floor; it felt more like a PE lesson than our normal regimented warmup. I think the different leaving Barnes and going to play more serious rugby is missing the socials. At Barnes there were continuous socials happening on a weekly basis, essentially a drinking club with an occasional game of rugby, whereby at Quins its maybe two socials a year to celebrate a deserved job ‘well done’. 

Despite what you’d expect, we don’t train at the Stoop. With each season, we are playing more and more games at The Stoop, which is amazing. We of course would like to be treated equally to the men’s game and it is slowly improving. In last two years the women have played ‘The Big Game’ day, joining the men at Twickenham stadium as well as hosting the ‘Game Changer’ at The Stoop, breaking the record of crowd numbers attending a women’s’ premiership game. Harlequins club is an advocate of breaking down barriers. I can say the women certainly work hard to put the effort in to prove our worth. 

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My first time playing rugby was in my final year of university. My flat mate who was captain of the rugby team needed players, so she asked me to help out.
I grew up in Wales and played a little rugby in 2013 when I was in sixth form. It was no-contact, just touch and tag rugby at school.
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